The village of Monsaraz has a special charm that fascinates those who visit this little pearl in the Alentejo on the banks of the Alqueva. It is one of the most beautiful villages in Portugal and enchants tourists thanks to its whitewashed houses, its schist streets, its walls and its castle. From Monsaraz you can see most of the Alentejo plains, now covered by water because of the construction of the Alqueva Dam that transformed the landscape and gave rise to one of the largest lakes in Europe.
Visiting Monsaraz is a unique experience and the vast majority of people will be rewarded only by simply strolling its streets or watching a magnificent sunset from the top of its walls. However, if you want to know this little paradise in more detail, know that there is much to see and many things to do in this Alentejo village. These are the best places to visit in Monsaraz.
1. Monsaraz Castle
Monsaraz Castle is located at the southwest end of this charming village in the Alentejo region of Portugal. This castle, classified as a National Monument, was built in the late 13th century at the request of King D. Dinis and is part of the chain of fortifications bordering Spain.
At present it can be recognized in the keep and four smaller square towers. Nowadays, the central part of the Castle is often used as a backdrop and the keep is divided into three floors, the lower one used as a prison, the middle one as the noble hall of the perfect, and the last as the attic of the palace.
2. Mother Church of Santa Maria da Lagoa
The early Gothic church is built in the second half of the 13th century, being its oldest reference from the time of King D. Dinis. Due to the black plague that plagued the region, the original church disappears in the reign of D. João I, giving rise to the construction of a new Matrix, since the small size of the building did not allow the burial of the local population.
The construction of the present mother church, under the responsibility of architect Pêro Gomes, is from the 16th century, based on the Renaissance style, with three naves supported by four Tuscan columns, where regional shale predominates. The pediment is decorated with a tile panel and headed by a Cross of the Order of Christ, representative of Our Lady of Conception. The high altar, composed of gilded wood, shows two wooden sculptures representing Saint Augustine and Saint Monica. Its interior is adorned with 17th and 18th century artistic decorations and eight side chapels. It is essential to highlight the tomb of Gomes Martins Silvestre, Monsaraz’s first mayor and settler, built of Estremoz marble, whose front face shows a funeral procession where several figures parade and at the top a figure alluding to the activity of the Templar knight.
3. Cromeleque do Xerez
The megalithic estate of Herdade do Sherry or Cromlech of Sherry can now be visited in an area near Orada Convent, near Monsaraz. It stands out in the landscape, benefiting from the elevated plane of the plain in which it stands. Access is very easy. It consists of a regular, centralized quadrangular enclosure, defined by 50 granite menhirs, with sizes between 120 and 150 cm each. In the center, there is a phallic-looking monolith about 4 meters high, where a row of dimples has been identified on the west side.
The Cromlech dates from the period from the beginning of 4000 BC to mid-3000 BC. The whole was found lying down in Herdade do Xerez, and was composed with the current arrangement in 1969, based on a drawing of one of the smaller menhirs. thought to be the original plant. It is one of the few existing cromlechs in Portuguese territory.
4. San Pedro do Corval Pottery
The pottery tradition in São Pedro do Corval dates back to prehistoric times, thanks to the existence of clay deposits with specific characteristics in this area of Reguengos de Monsaraz, which have always motivated this activity. Among pots, potters’ wheels and ovens are unique traditional utilitarian pieces that transport us to the ancient times when clay was molded to the needs of field work and humble lives in the Alentejo.
Today we find in São Pedro do Corval true works of art, both in shape and decoration – ceramic painting – made with ancestral knowledge and a characteristic aesthetic of the region. Coupled with the unique experience of being able to see live the clay to be molded by the experienced hands of the master potter on his wheel and to share his knowledge and experiences, São Pedro do Corval, with more than two dozen potteries in constant operation is by excellence the largest potter center in the country and one of the largest in the Iberian Peninsula.